A Look At The Shepherd’s Rod
A Look At The Shepherd’s Rod
With reports of Shepherd’s Rod teachings in certain pockets of the Union territory, I thought to do a series of articles looking at this organization, its history, teachings and its approach towards the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I will also seek to take a look at Ezekiel 9, a familiar reference point for Shepherd’s Rod. However, for this initial study I will explore the history of the movement. Sources for these articles are: Shepherd's Rod - SDADefend www.sdadefend.com
/WolvesinFleeces/Rods%201.htm -The Branch Davidians/Shepherd's Rod—Who Are They ...https://adventistbiblicalresearch.org/.
The History of The Shepherd's Rod
The "Shepherd's Rod" or otherwise referred to as the "Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Church, " is “a religious offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.” Started in 1929 by Victor Houteff, and its unusual name, "Shepherd's Rod," was the title of his first publication, as well as his chosen name for the organization until 1942.
Born in Raikovo, Bulgaria, on March 2, 1885, Victor T. Houteff “immigrated to the United States in 1907 at the age of 22, after having been expelled from Bulgaria.” Believed to be “originally a Greek Orthodox, Houteff had become involved in some kind of difficulty with his native church; so much so that they requested the Bulgarian Government to expel him from the country.”
He arrived in America, (Illinois) in 1919 and thereafter, he was baptized into the Rockford Seventh-day Adventist Church. However, by 1923, “he had moved to Southern California, where, two years later, he had his membership transferred to the Olympic Exposition Park Church in Los Angeles.”
It was reported that soon after his membership transfer to the Olympic Exposition Park Church in Los Angeles, “complaints came from some of its members that Houteff was teaching rather unusual beliefs in his Sabbath School class and at private Sabbath afternoon meetings with some of the members.” Consequently, “a representative group of church workers, Bible teachers, and leaders met with him to consider his views on November 14. 1929. But nothing came of it.”
The Approach of the Church Towards Houteff and His Followers
At the 1930 General Conference Session, held in San Francisco from May 29 to June 12, Houteff seized the opportunity to proselyte members and leaders by distributing copies of a study he hectographed entitled The Shepherd's Rod. “One of those who received it-and had time to carefully examine it-was the well known F.C. Gilbert. Familiar with the teachings of the church, he wrote a letter to Houteff pointing out a number of errors in his publication and recommended that he give them up. Gilbert also wrote to the church leaders in Southern California and recommended that careful study should be given to this problem before the situation worsened.
Consequently, on July 23, the Exposition Park Church Board met with Houteff to consider the problem, but nothing was accomplished. A second board meeting was held on August 14, at which time "It was moved and supported that Brother Houteff be asked to retract his statement that Elder Spicer is not a Sabbathkeeper and to apologize for the disturbance in the church on Sabbath, November 30, 1929. Since Bother Houteff did not make these apologies, the motion was amended as follows, [that) the church wished to express its disapproval of Brother Houteff's action in this matter."
Additionally, “on October 16, the union president, conference president, and local pastor met with Houteff, at which time this action taken was that: 'The Shepherd's Rod is neither true to simple facts, nor true to the word of God, and it is condemned by the very ‘Testimonies’ it quotes from. We warn our dear brethren against the false conclusions this poor man has come to.’”
However, “In 1935 Houteff and 11 followers moved to a newly purchased farm near Waco, Texas, which they named Mount Carmel Center. By 1937 a tentative organization was functioning, calling itself ‘The General Association of the Shepherd's Rod Seventh-day Adventists.’ The group continued zealously producing and distributing its literature, infiltrating Adventist churches in search of anyone who could be persuaded to join them.”
In 1942, the U.S. Selective Service draft posed a major quandary for Shepherd's Rods as “draftees could be granted Sabbath privileges only if they could be shown to be bona fide members of a recognized religious group advocating that belief.”
Accordingly, “the leaders dropped their claim to be regular Seventh-day Adventist members and registered with the United States government under the name Davidian Seventh-day Adventists.” Subsequently, they issued certificates of membership, documented their ministers and sought to transition to a separated group in 1942 though not altogether complete. Nevertheless, “they continued to insist that they comprised the true and faithful Adventists.”
Before his death in 1955, Houteff announced that, “following a period of 1260 literal days, Christ would initiate His kingdom. His wife Florence, succeeding to leadership, identified the 1260 days as extending from November 9, 1955, to April 22, 1959. As the fateful day approached, a call was issued for the faithful to dispose of property and come to Mount Carmel Center. An estimated 800 persons arrived, many bringing the proceeds from the sale of possessions.” Unfortunately, “When the day came and went, unmarked by the expected event, disillusionment led to fracture of the Shepherd's Rods into smaller groups, the largest remaining at Waco and adding the name ‘Branch.’ Some members returned to Seventh-day Adventist churches.” With unsuccessful efforts by Adventists for reconciliation, “late in 1961 Mrs. Houteff renounced the Shepherd's Rod teachings as in error and shortly moved to disband the group”. Nonetheless, “one of the factions gained possession of the Mount Carmel Center” and eventually came under the control of Vernon Howell in 1984, who had been disfellowshiped in 1981 from the Tyler (Texas) Seventh-day Adventist Church. “Howell later changed his name to David Koresh.” However, “Under his leadership the group radicalized its program and stockpiled heavy firearms, prompting the February 28 raid by law enforcement authorities—ending in a shootout and standoff that propelled the Branch Davidian group into the media limelight worldwide.” More to follow. . . .